The Kingston waterfront at Flora MacDonald Confederation Basin Marina on Lake Ontario has always been the perfect place to cool off. The limestone structure is a Martello tower which was one of six built in the mid 1800’s as part of a then-military defense system against the U.S.!
Kingston’s limestone City Hall was completed in 1841 and is a National Historic Site of Canada. The nation’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald lay in state in this building after he died in 1891. Kingston was the first capital of Canada!
By the time I arrived in Kingston, I was more than ready for a little down time around my old haunts. Mind you, I had enjoyed every minute of my visit to Canada thus far. Now, with few obligations, I simply wished to relax and take it easy before heading back to Dominica.
My first home in Canada never disappoints: the Limestone City was in the midst of a Buskers Festival.
A Hip Hop Troupe from NYC was teaching some boys how to make the right moves to the rapper’s beat.
A young juggler from Montreal sets his cap on Princess Street, the main drag and attracts passersby with his clever throws.
Although I was tired from a day of travel from Halifax, I quickly perked up when I watched some of the entertaining acts on the streets. I was staying overnight just off of the Queen’s University Campus so I spent a little time wandering around the student ghetto, revisiting some of my old digs. It was fun to see that they still looked the same, although I am certain in 30+ years, much had changed!
The sunflowers at the Kingston Farmers’ Market brought back fond memories of my parents’ garden, just north of the city.
I fondly recalled my two years spent in this house on Earl Street with three other roomies. My room had the 2nd storey window, was bright and airy, and was referred to as the ‘Executive Sweet’!
Edwin and Beth danced a two-step to a little Cajun music emanating from two saxophonists who were playing on an anchored paddle wheel river tour boat while passengers boarded. Everyone smiled at their spontaneous fun!
Next morning, my brother Edwin and his wife Beth came to meet me in town before we headed north to the cottage where I would be staying for the next week. We did spend a little time walking around the Saturday Farmers’ Market, and also enjoyed part of the trail along the Kingston waterfront in MacDonald Park (named after Canada’s first prime minister who lived here).
Gwen hammed it up on the restored century old Gaskin Lion in MacDonald Park. She was a bit more demure when the last photo of her was taken here – 50+ years ago!
Brother Edwin had a more stately demeanor while astride the historic lion in MacDonald Park. Lake Ontario is in the background.
The Kingston Farmers’ Market offered numerous varieties of fruit in mid-July.
After I picked up my rental car, we drove in a northerly direction, bought groceries in our long-time local grocery store in Glenburnie (where we grew up), visited our parents’ graves at the Latimer Cemetery and then headed further northeast to the village of Battersea. There we took a side road to Dog Lake, where I would be staying at one of the Three Little Cottages, owned by family friends Sharon and Will Freeman. Another longtime neighbour from our childhood days, Jean (Sharon’s mother) lives
I return to this “Little Cottage” on Dog Lake again and again. It is so peaceful there and I always feel really well during my stay.
close-by and I felt as if I were really coming home. They also run the Freedom Farm,an organic operation offering Community Supported Agriculture, wherein clients buy shares in the weekly harvest.
This beautiful mosaic sign welcomes clients and guests to the Freedom Farm property, which includes the Three Little Cottages.
I settled in easily with help from Edwin and Beth. It was a lovely day and we took a walk around a pretty point of land with a little community-supported beach, a few minutes walk away. It felt a bit cool to me so I was not inclined to take a dip!
Later that evening, the American fishermen in the adjacent two cottages returned with their catch. We watched them come in and then noticed that one who had already disembarked from the boat had returned with a machine that at first we thought produced smoke to keep away bugs. Almost instantly, I felt it was something more harmful. In half a minute, without my bidding, my brother went outside and politely asked: “Is that smoke?” “No, it’s insecticide,” came the reply. “Turn it off please! That will make my sister very sick!” shouted Edwin. They quickly complied but even though the fogging machine was only on for a couple of minutes, I could smell it in the air and had to leave the windows closed all night. I did attempt to contact Sharon and Will, but they were out. However, early next morning, Sharon came down from the farmhouse to tell the fishermen that insecticides were not permitted on the property, as an organic farm is in operation and there are also bee hives on site. This was a most unusual occurrence and we were all very surprised by this freak incident. I think the fishermen felt very badly and had not thought about consequences of chemical use in this extremely pristine area. I am sure they will think twice before they ever do that again!
The granite rock outcrops on Dog Lake form part of a unique geographic region, called the Frontenac Axis. The topography is dramatically and naturally sensational, and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 2002.
Dog Lake is a fisher’s delight and draws hundreds of enthusiasts every summer. I believe there is ice fishing in the winter too!
The scenery around the Three Little Cottages on Dog Lake is restful and restorative
The view of early morning mist on Dog Lake from my cottage porch evoked feelings of complete serenity.
Chef Edwin grilled the savory homemade turkey sausages (no additives!) that we purchased at the Glenburnie Grocery. It had just started to drizzle. Dog Lake is in the background.
Later that evening, Edwin and Beth returned to their hotel in Kingston and came back early next morning for a big breakfast. It was a rainy day, only the second one in my five-week Canadian stay and I could not complain about the weather despite ‘Hurricane’ Arthur’s unforgettable appearance in Nova Scotia. Our meal was a team effort, and we did certainly overindulge as torrents of rain pounded on the roof for a couple of hours.
Part of the lock system at Jones Falls on the Rideau Canal between Kingston and Ottawa Ontario. A few boats were waiting to go through at the highest lock en route to Ottawa.
Beth and Gwen posed on the foot bridge at Whitefish Lake at the Jones Falls Lock Station on the Rideau Canal.
It cleared up somewhat just as we started out on a little trip to Jones Falls, a scenic and historic site half an hour further north. It forms part of the Lock System for boaters on the Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The locks have been operational since the early 1800’s! The walk-about in the fresh damp air was most reviving and we even worked up an appetite for ice cream, which we purchased at a little café near the parking lot.
We returned to the cottage for a quick lunch, and then Edwin and Beth departed in the early afternoon so that they would stay ahead of heavy Sunday afternoon traffic returning to the Greater Toronto Area from points north, commonly called “cottage country.”
I was then left to my own devices: naps; books; walks; visits with my friends on the farm; and occasional half-day trips to Kingston. It was a little cool the week I was there, but I bundled up and warmed up with plentiful cups of coffee and tea. One evening, the plaintiff yips of nearby coyotes reminded me that I was on the edge of the wilderness – and it was wonderful!
While I did have a few moments of guilt about not helping out on the Freedom Farm, I recognized that my abilities in that specialty are limited and my allergies to grasses and bugs would not have made any task easy. Therefore, I sometimes walked around the organic farm while staff and WWOOF volunteers toiled away to raise the finest organic produce one could ever consume. The air was sweet and pure. I took pleasure in
This artistically appealing organic raspberry pie tasted as good as it looked. It was prepared by Bill, another amazing almost nonagenarian. The Freedom Farm staff, volunteers and I quickly devoured the whole thing!
my little chats with the workers and partook of the demolition of a delectable organic raspberry pie, baked by Jean’s almost 90-year-old brother, Bill.
Here are some scenes from Freedom Farm in production:
The green house shelters special produce such as gigantic eggplants. I’ve never seen any that big! (sorry -did not have camera with me to capture them)
This is one of the two mini-horses on the farm. Children adore them and so do I!
Sharon and a WWOOF volunteer tend to the organic plants with TLC.
Sharon proudly holds up some beautiful beets – a Freedom Farm specialty. And look at those incredible carrots in the background!
Jean, mother of Sharon is an energetic septuagenarian who is actively involved in the farm’s operation . She is seen here harvesting pole beans.
Whenever I ventured in to the lovely Limestone City, I was aware that I did not feel as well as I did in the great outdoors north of Kingston. I would be very tired and feel nauseated after a few hours in the urban centre, but that would gradually clear once I was back at Dog Lake. Such is the life of a person with environmental health challenges! I have no regrets, however, about time spent in my hometown, as there were some people to see and things to do, such as a long-awaited tour of Queen’s University, my alma mater.
I had been in touch with Faye Ransom, from the Arts and Science Advancement Team with respect to my small bequest to the Queen’s School of Music. We had corresponded for a couple of years and it was she who offered to show me around the campus next time I was in town.
We met at a predesignated street corner on the edge of campus. I was dressed like a tourist, but that didn’t fool Faye. She greeted me with a huge smile and a warm hug, as if she had finally found a long-lost friend! I couldn’t help but feel welcome with her cheeriness, enthusiasm and easy-going demeanor. She didn’t mind all of my questions either! There were a few unfamiliar buildings on campus. I was particularly interested in the new library, as that is one of my areas of interest and training. We went inside the massive complex, and while it is certainly technologically current, I was relieved to see that books still exist!
The new sports complex is state-of-the art and houses other facilities for the students and faculty.
The Stauffer Library (social sciences and humanities) was completed in 1994 and is the largest building on campus.
I did wonder about the music library collection, as it is no longer housed in School of Music. No more said, and Faye took me to Special Collections, found within the old Douglas Library (from my time). She introduced me to the new librarian, and he took us into the stacks where I observed ‘classical’ LP’s that I know I had listened to during my studies. How did I know for sure? As a librarian, I recognized the accession numbers on the jackets, which dated back to the 70’s and ’80’s! There were even a few turntables in the listening room. I am glad that not all is obsolete!
Gwen and Shirley Roth, Administrative Officer of the School of Music smile on the steps of Harrison-LeCaine Hall, which was built in the early 1970’s.
The highlight of this foray was of course, a visit to the Music School.
Music 1981 alumni and longtime friends Gwen Whitford and David Self recently got-together in Barbados, where David is working and still playing piano/organ. Gwen was on her way home to Dominica, where she still does some singing. Photo taken by John.
They were in the midst of some renovations, but the workers pointed to a stack of composite photos on a table and I quickly came upon my dearest Class of 1981. Ever-efficient Faye also introduced me to Administrative Officer Shirley Roth, who updated me on many of the latest in-house developments. I was also honoured to meet Dr. Margaret Walker, current Director of the School of Music.
Faye Ransom was the perfect person to take me around the campus. She was very sensitive to my special interests, and also gave me a great overview of Queen’s today.
I love the blend of old and new on the Queen’s Campus. Here is more limestone – one of Kingston’s claims to fame. This is Kingston Hall, which I believe dates back to the 19th century. Queen’s was founded in 1841.
I briefly updated them on my music endeavors on Dominica and told them I was very touched to revisit this special building where I spent untold hours and made lasting friendships between 1977 and 1981. I didn’t have time to see the new world-class Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts, which is opening in September 2014, but I will certainly check it out next visit.
After 1 1/2 hours, I felt very satisfied with the overview of my beloved Queen’s, and I thanked Faye profusely for showing me around, bringing back some sweet memories and wowing me with what
My remaining days at the Three Little Cottages passed quickly. I was fortunate to see both brothers one more time before I left, thanks to tremendous efforts on their parts. I went back to Dominica with a firm desire to spend quality time with my Canadian family again very soon!
My niece Mara is graduating from high school in June 2015. I plan to be there for the celebration – God-willing and weather-permitting!
My nephew Dallin (pronounced day-lin) performs with the Stirling Festival Theatre every summer This year, he was in the cast of Footloose, the Musical, which received rave reviews. I’ve just got to see him in action next year!